A few of the main points from the talk:
- Be humble. Your way (or the American way you’re used to) may not be the best way to do things. Realize that God is reflected in all cultures – and sin is present in all cultures. Ask for forgiveness when you hurt your brothers and sisters because of your lack of humility and understanding.
- Study Jesus to see what he values in leadership. After all, Jesus chose uneducated fishermen to be his leaders. Maybe it had something to do with their belief and trust despite not always understanding, and a willingness to serve and follow Jesus…
- InterVarsity’s structure serves primarily US students – examine the way you minister, choose leaders, and run the chapter. Does it fit with the international community? Do you need to restructure?
- Realize that US students love to jump in to fill needs, while many internationals may not right away. Provide space for the international students to fill the needs first.
- Allow imperfection. Especially allow your chapter to look imperfect if you are still figuring out leadership roles and encouraging people to step into them. Don’t just fill them all with staff or US student leaders.
- Be committed to prayer with your students and your community.
- Partner with the undergrad chapter to try to encourage US students to partner with you.
Well let me just introduce myself first, for those of you that are new. My name is Jenn West and I work at North Carolina State in Raleigh, NC. Our chapter there is primarily international students, it is its own ISM fellowship, we also have an undergrad chapter there. It is predominantly grad students – we are at a research institution so 99% of our international students are grad, and we are roughly around 50 representing 12 different nationalities. This has been a long journey for myself; what does it mean to grow leadership and work cross culturally? It’s one of my passions, and it’s actually shaped by my experience prior to coming on staff with InterVarsity. So I just want to share a little bit because it’s actually shaped and transformed how I grow leaders.
I actually served for two years with Operation Mobilization in London doing outreach to Muslims, but my team was international. And before I went overseas, one of the reasons that I chose OM is that I said, “Not only do I want to be outreaching, but I want to work with internationals in ministry, international Christians,” and OM was doing that. At the time, I didn’t necessarily know what that would mean. I was on a team that was over 60 people serving the London area, there were over 12 nationalities represented, Christians from around the world. 2/3 of my team the first year were Korean, my house- we not only ministered together but we lived together. So my house my first year were four Korean brothers and sisters, a black South African, a Dutch, and me. My ministry team was composed of my house and then another Korean family, so I was the only native English speaker in my ministry team. It was probably 2 of the most life-giving years of my life, that God just taught me so many things, but it was also 2 of the hardest years. It was messy, it was lots of conflict, lots of missed communication, having the same vision for ministry but sometimes coming at it with very different ideas of how that should play out. As a young believer there were time where I was underneath – I had leaders over me from other nationalities, Koreans, Dutch. We also, then, as part of our training doing Muslim evangelism, then we trained short term missionaries that came, college students and others throughout the year, mostly in the summer. So then we were dealing with even a greater variety of people that we were serving in leadership on our teams, then training Christians from around the world to do ministry to Muslims.
So I worked with international Christians from probably over 40 countries in my two years, both serving alongside of them and teaching them. And the greatest thing that came out of that for me as an American was a sense of humility, learning that my American way was not always the best way. At the same time, being exposed so much more to how awesome our God is, that he is reflected in all cultures. That man’s sin is also reflected in all cultures. Learning to partner. Learning to die to myself. Learning to love when you’re really hurt, when you’ve been hurt by your brothers and sisters in Christ. Learning to ask for forgiveness and humble yourself when you’ve stuck your foot in it for the 10th, umpteenth time because you’re just being yourself. By me being American and being outgoing sometimes would sometimes hurt my Korean housemates who felt like I was stepping all over them. And so learning that since. And that is what I have brought into my fellowship. And so that – I just wanted to give you the background of how that has shaped [me].
So the second thing that has really shaped for me what is a leader has been going back to the scriptures and really studying Jesus as my model. Coming as a product of InterVarsity, I am an InterVarsity student, grew up in an InterVarsity chapter, and also as product of American culture, one of the things that I’ve learned about our culture is that we really value leaders and that we really invest. But at the same time we have a lot of resources as Americans. And so we tend to look for the crème de la crème. And that’s a good thing, but as I’ve gone back and I looked at my scriptures and I looked at the disciples, they weren’t the crème de la crème. They were uneducated fishermen. And there were two distinct characteristics that kept coming back to me. They were messy. In fact, I found more times than not as I read through Jesus’ ministry, the disciples often hindered what he was doing, not always helping what he was doing, if you read some of the passages. They didn’t always get who he was. But there were two key characteristics that kept coming back to me. One is that there was a sense of belief and trust. And even in the midst of that, they didn’t always get who Jesus was. There was doubt. Even as he revealed himself they didn’t always get it – but there was some sense of “I don’t fully get it, but I’m going to trust you.” And the second one was a willingness to follow.
And so that’s radically redefined how I look for leaders, whether among Americans or internationals, are those two key characteristics. Are they people that are really saying –and in fact I love it when my internationals go, “I have questions. I’m not quite there.” And I’m like, “You are in the best place. It took me 10 years as an American Christian growing up in the church to actually admit I had questions about my faith. Do you know how awesome that is?” And they’re like, “Really? It’s okay to question? It’s okay to have a little fear?” And then I take them to the scriptures, you know, “Lord I believe, help me with my unbelief.” And then a willingness to follow or to serve. So those are two things that has radically reshaped –
My first year on staff we had 6 CT team members from 6 different nationalities, which was wonderful. My second year, two of our CT members had only been Christians 3 months and I’m going, “Aaaah, what are they going to say?” And yet as we approached them to serve, their heart as they wrote out their – their theology was still a little… - but their heart for wanting to serve other students and wanting to draw them to Christ was so evident, and they grew exponentially by allowing them two come into leadership. So those are some of the lessons that God’s been teaching me.
The third lesson is learning that sometimes the structures – and this may look different at different-and I’m sure this is something where we’re all-we struggle with as international student workers is that the structure of InterVarsity serves American students primarily. And so as a staff I’ve had to look sometimes and say the structure of the way we do leadership, choosing leaders, or even the way we do a C team or things doesn’t fit an international student community or our international brothers and sisters. One of the characteristics too that I love about American culture but can be a curse and a blessing is because we are a mixed fellowship, we have Americans involved, is that when there is a need, Americans love to jump in. If there’s a need, we jump in feet first. But as I’ve learned serving on an international team, that with most of my international brothers and sisters, they long to serve too but they’re not always the first to jump in. But when Americans are always seeing the need and jumping in, it doesn’t allow room for our international brothers and sisters to come alongside of us.
So my first year on staff we restructured all of our leadership. We had Bible study leaders, and they were being co-led, and some of them were – had internationals leading alongside of them. But what I saw was that the Americans were doing most of the leading, and the internationals were just kind of sitting there. And we had a lot of groups that were being co-led by Americans. And so we decided, we met as a staff team in prayer and worked with our student leaders, but we restructured and we said all of our Bible studies now are going to be co-led internationally. And that means I don’t want to see two Chinese leading a Bible study, just like I don’t want to see two Americans leading a Bible study. So it wasn’t just calling the Americans out, but that’s because we’re not an ethnic-specific chapter and this might look different if you’re – I mean it’s going to look different if you’re an ethnic-specific chapter. But we were an international witnessing community and our leadership needed to represent that. And so we did leadership training, and I really worked with the Americans to have them come alongside and share leadership, and we chose leaders that were willing to work and allow the internationals to kind of step up and encourage them to step up. And kind of had to ask some of our American leaders to step back a little bit. And that was hard, but we saw growth. And the Americans saw the value of that and came on board.
The second one for me as a staff that was really hard was that my predecessor on staff had led worship. So when he left, and after our intern year, primarily worship was being led by Americans because they played the guitars. And I’m learning to play the guitar, I’ve led worship overseas, but I’m not gifted in it. And I had found out through the grapevine that there were some internationals that were actually musically gifted and capable. But we had approached them and they said no. Well I decided I wasn’t going to step in to leading worship. So we went to a cappella, no instruments, choosing music randomly each week at our Bible studies. It was messy, it was chaotic, all the students were coming up to me – “But you’re a staff worker, that’s what staff do. IV staff play, lead worship.” And I was like, “No.” “But you own a guitar!” “Yes I do, and you can borrow it.” So for about a month we didn’t have a worship leader. And it was messy, I got a lot of complaints. At that time we were praying and kind of pursuing this Indian brother and encouraging him, but a month later he came to me and said, “You know what Jenn, I’ve been praying about it and I want to be – I would like to be the worship leader.” And now we have seven people on our worship team from 6 different nationalities, Americans included. But it was me dying, seeing the need, knowing I could step into it, but knowing that there was someone far more gifted but needed time to growing into recognizing that need. And allowing our fellowship to be messy for a while and not to look perfect like they had expected it to look. But that was something that God had really taught me, and I think the students are learning it because they’re doing it with each other and encouraging each other and even our non-Christians to step into places of service. Our fellowship looks very chaotic at times, it’s not always very well structured. Clean up – we have people sign up for clean up and then half the time they don’t show up and I’m like, “Oh my goodness,” and then next thing I know there’s everyone’s cleaning up, you know? Everyone’s taking part in it. It’s not structured and it’s not organized but they’re inviting each other in to serve. And so those are some of the lessons.
And lastly and most importantly is just being committed to prayer with our student leaders and with our community. God has given us such unity the past four years in the midst of our diversity. Four years ago we were 2/3 non-Christian. We have seen a lot of conversions of those regularly involved. So we’re now probably the opposite – 70% Christian, 30% non, and all of them have had opportunities to step into leadership. But one of the things that we have continually been committed to with our Christians is praying that God’s – acknowledging that it’s God’s spirit that has allowed us to be so unified and so diverse, and to pray for that unity and love in the midst of our diversity and to extend grace to each other. And so those are some of the things that we’ve been learning. And so those are just a little of the lessons but I kind of – because I know that my chapter looks very different from other chapters around the country. So I just want to hear feedback like, maybe some questions, I do better with question and answers. Or if you have specifics, those were just some of the highlights that God has been laying upon my heart and student leadership. If you disagree or maybe you have another way? Yeah.
I want to ask you about the integration with your American students in your chapter. Are these students just freeflowing into your chapter, or do you handpick them, or how is that structured and cared about?
A little bit of both. I do come from a unique chapter with a long history. We are at NC State the longest student-led fellowship in the nation. We have over 30 year history, so we are quite well-established where we have a lot of Americans who are no longer students that are community volunteers. Most of the Americans that come to our fellowship have had some cross cultural experience and so we have tried to do some more partnering with the undergrad chapter and trying to encourage American students to come in. I wouldn’t say we hand pick them, but I would say because most of them – because we are separate in an international witnessing community, they come because they’ve had some sort of unique cross cultural experience. God’s already doing something within them where they want to work or partner or work internationally.
I have had American students- currently right now one of our leaders right now has done a lot of cross cultural experience but we’ve really redefined the structure where I think prior to me it was more of an American structure – it was highly structured, lots of meetings and so forth – and we’ve kind of tried to accommodate the different cultures and so forth. And she’s really bucked that a lot. And so when she was nominated to be on the leadership team there were some people that said, including my supervisor that said, “Well, she shouldn’t be on the leadership team.” But as we went through the application there was a teachable spirit, you know, and she has a huge heart for outreach and has grown our chapter exponentially this year in challenging us on how to be outreaching. It has created sometimes conflict, because she has a very American way of doing things, but at the same time it was again valuing all cultures and saying, “Yeah, I will confess I prayed for a long time cause I knew by inviting her” – and I did go to some of the other student leaders that had been prior leaders and said, “What do you think?” And as they had read through her application they said, “Well, it could be a little difficult cause she has kind of a confrontational spirit, but there’s value here.” And I agreed. And I knew as a staff it was going to make my job more difficult, and it has. We have had to have some confrontation and things like that – in love, but it’s really taught me how to love her. But what God kept coming back to me is that even in a, you know, an international community, Americans are valued – Americans are international too and we need to value them too. And in fact I preach that to my students all the time, because some of our American students have gone the other way, where we were so American. Now they’re like, “Oh, let’s focus on our international brothers and sisters” and I’m always like, “Well, Americans are international too, even though it’s our home culture.” And now our international students are starting to say that to our American brothers and sisters that are involved, that sometimes they’re like, “Oh I won’t be Emcee this week because I’m American,” and they’re like, “No, internationals aren’t – “ So it is this kind of modeling and growing in love.
I was asked if we had an application for our leaders. Didn’t bring my laptop with me. We have, I will just, Katie Rawson, for many of you who know her, has given us a lot of flexibility in redesigning what does leadership look like, so we have a slightly different leadership model than what is typical of IV. We do have a coordinating team, but at the same time we also have what is called a ministry team. And the ministry team is basically consists of any Christian that is involved in the international fellowship, whether American or international. And so we try to meet once a month for prayer, for teaching/training, and then also for vision. The C team – we introduce the C team and the C team is a part of that ministry team and they help shape the vision but we’re constantly getting feedback from the other international Christians that are involved, because they’re connected to people that not everyone in the C team [is]. It also provides more in-depth growth because most – a lot of times our international Christians can feel very burnt out because they’re always giving out so this is a way for us to minister back to them and also to be outreaching in our prayers and growing them spiritually. So that was a structure, an additional structure that we’ve added into our leadership, if that makes sense. And we’ve found that that work out really well in encouraging the Christians. When I came it was quite small, and it’s growing because our Christians are growing. The question was 1) do we have an application for student leaders and we do. And then we have a coordinating team that are student leaders, and the ministry team is composed of all Christians that are involved in the fellowship. And we have our listserv for everyone involved in the fellowship but then we have a listserv for specific- people specifically in the ministry team. So ways to confidentially pray for each other, make needs known, teaching training opportunities, gathering for prayer. And it ebbs and flows.
The question was, do we have any non-Christians that have leadership responsibilities? And I guess that was one of my points and I forgot, so thank you.
In developing leaders we also find that giving them ownership into our fellowship long before – which is a form of discipleship and it’s what Jesus did himself, he gave ownership and discipleship into his ministry – and so we have student leaders that serve in the capacity of serving as our emcees, each week welcoming people on our greeter teams, set up, clean up, helping with Friday night, orchestrating some of our game activities, they take great involvement in NSO as our NSO volunteers whether they’re helping with our yard sale, helping coordinate that, working alongside of us with that, whether they’re working on – we do a tour of our city, so things like that. Our holiday dinners, we get them involved in that. A year ago, in encouraging more prayer, we actually got rid of the prayer meeting because we didn’t see a lot of students doing it, and our prayer coordinator adapted doing country sharing because we wanted to be praying for the world as a chapter, and so we got some of the non-Christians to share about their countries and asked them what are ways that we could pray for your country. And so they would share ways that we could be praying for their country, which was exciting. And so we would corporately pray, and the non-Christians and the Christians loved that. And it was neat because we got- we hear a lot about India or China, but then we got to learn about Ghana. You know? And we got to learn about these smaller countries that aren’t always – we got to learn about Thailand and some of these smaller countries that people are like, “I didn’t – Bulgaria! Ah! I didn’t even know where that was on the map!” You know, which is what some of the students were saying. So it was just really neat to see – that was another way that we brought ownership in a way for them to serve the chapter, and a way to honor them as well. To show that you have value within our body of believers, within this body. That you are honored.
Andy, you can jump in here too if you have observations. Andy [White] is my staff partner. The question was, have we seen any problems with drawing the line between the ministry team and the non-Christians in our fellowship. And I’d say no because the ministry team is – it’s not an exclusive club. So one of the things that happened four years ago that really knitted the community of believers was some of the students started holding movie nights after our fellowship, and everyone was invited. And it was this spontaneous burst. So there was a strong sense of community built among the non-Christians and the believers. There’s not this exclusive group like, “Oh, you’re on the ministry team.” This is just an outlet for us to come together and pray. We do do a retreat for the ministry team leaders, in fact we’re doing it in two weeks. Two years ago, there’s a mainland Chinese couple that was involved in our fellowship, and she had come to the Lord two years ago. Her husband has been involved in our fellowship, and we had been meeting with him for years. He’s digging into the Bible, spiritually had not made a commitment, but the question was can he come on the retreat? And I said, “Of course he can come on the retreat.” She was coming and she wanted him to come, and we felt he has been a vital role of our ministry, and it really served him. And this past year he came to the Lord as well. But it was making those exceptions – that we don’t see our ministry team as exclusive, it’s a way to pray and grow each other but it’s not – I don’t know if it’s something that we just haven’t communicated – it’s not a clique, if that makes sense, or we’re “other” than you. It’s a way for the Christians to gather and to minister, we’re building each other up so we’re being outreaching back to our brothers and sisters that aren’t followers.
So our ministry team, we schedule meetings maybe once a month. On a Sunday, we meet at someone’s home, we come together, we do prayer, we do sharing, we kind of talk about the events that are coming up. Sometimes we have teaching/training and things like that. So it’s not an additional weekly meeting that is outside. Does that makes sense? These are good questions.
The question was what is the role of the C team and the ministry team? And what are the differences? Is that correct? And what does each do?
Our C team, because we are a student-led fellowship, that they’re blended well but we have our coordinating team has different positions. So we have a C team leader, we have – each year it changes, but – Friday night coordinators and things like that. And we really entrust those student leaders because we emphasize that we’re a student-led fellowship, and of course, being international, not all of our C team members are always students. We’ve had non-students, we’ve had spouses and so forth, we’ve had flexibility. But we do look to them to really set the vision of that school year and to share and partner with the ministry team in developing that vision, but it’s the C team that we really look to to hold that vision and kind of help with some of the planning, but partnering with the rest of the international Christian students and volunteers and alum that are involved. So a lot of our ministry team members are Bible study leaders, they’re members of the community that maybe can’t be there every week but are in discipleship relationships or seeker, you know, pursuing the non-Christians and so forth. So there is a sense of partnership, but it is-we have communicated to both that we are a student led fellowship that also has a lot of community members involved and non-students involved because of where we are and the people we attract in Raleigh. So that the C team is the visioncasting and developing, and sharing that vision and partnering with the other Christians within the fellowship do hone it and grow it and communicate it.
I’m not on a commuter campus, we are on a research institute. And one of the tensions that we’ve found – and this is unique, I think, to our area – is we have three major research institutes within 20 minutes of each other. NC State University, Duke University, and UNC Chapel Hill. And because of that, they’ve formed the research triangle park, which is a bunch of companies that have come in to the area, so we’re seeing more and more grad students that are getting jobs in the area and staying on. So that has been a blessing to our ministry, that as some of our students are coming to the Lord at the end of their time as students, but then get a job in the area and we’re able to continue to disciple them and invest in them. We also encourage that they get involved in churches, but there’s a way for us to go deeper with them, because it is an international community, and really develop their gifts. But it is a blessing and also sometimes a curse, because last year we were more non-student than student involvement, and so we had this year to refocus back on the campus because we had so many alum and spouses and community members that we didn’t have - we were like, “We have….” So it’s a unique place that I’m finding in the country for the type of university that we’re at.
So if you have other experiences, for those of you that work with undergrads, I don’t want this just to be my experience because I know that my experience is limited and I’m growing and I would love – so if you feel that you have something to add to what we’ve been talking about, please speak up.
Okay the question was do I have large – does our fellowship have large groups and small groups and people feeling overwhelmed by meetings every week?
Because I work, we work predominantly with a grad student thing, that’s even more of an issue with not having a lot of time, so we actually combine our large group and small group time, and I’ll just explain the structure of our fellowship.
We meet on Friday nights at a church that’s a block from the university, they give us – we have a meal, we start at 6:30 but that usually means 7, we have a meal, so time for people to hang out and talk and catch up, and then we do have a time of announcements, kind of introducing who we are, are welcoming newcomers, introducing them to everyone, explaining what’s coming up in our life, and then a time a worship. And we don’t have speakers, we then break up into small groups. And we have different levels of small groups, we have been short on leaders so we’re down to three small groups. So we have small group for seekers, so people that are brand new to the Bible. Then we have a mixed group, and the way we explain that is for people that maybe have studied the Bible but want to go a little bit deeper, and then we do have a group for followers of Jesus. One of the things that our student leaders over the past 4 or 5 years have been committed to – it makes it messy sometimes – but we all study the same thing. So this year we did, last year we did the book of Acts. Now it looks different depending on what level you are, but the students felt that since we had so many different relationships with people in different groups, that it was great if you could talk about what you were learning and still be on the same page. And so sometimes that means, for the international Christians, that we don’t always go as deep as they’d like to go, which is then why we try to provide the training or the ministry team for handling some of the deeper issues, or the retreats. So it does, you know, sometimes make it complicated but we have found for developing relationships, so again your identity isn’t just your small group, it is this overall community. We’re all studying the same thing and we can dialogue about what we’re learning in the scriptures and so forth. And because we work with grad students and there’s not a lot of time, we do do small group training, but at the same time we use study guides, because it’s not as overwhelming to get them excited about leading when they have a study that’s already planned out that we teach them how to tweak it. You know, like you don’t have to ask every single question in a study guide. Or you can change some of the questions, or you can add a question. But we found, especially I think for international students too, or young believers that are moving into leadership, it’s not as overwhelming when you have something – a structure that’s already in place for you that you can develop.
The question was what resources have we been using? Well, Katie Rawson, because she’s not – if you don’t know Katie Rawson, she’s not here, but she’s my area director and been on ISM staff for over 25 years. Yeah, she just has a lot of resources so I’m constantly going to her. She’s my area director, and so I’m constantly calling her up going in years past, we have - I mean Andy and I worked together, my staff partner and I worked together to find Bible studies and to ask the students what they want to be doing. So it is hard, this is probably one of the hardest parts of my job is finding resources that are developed. I will tell you the study we did this past semester, which is a new one put out by IVP, the Critical Discussions study guide, Who Was Jesus? And for a beginner group, they didn’t use the questions, it was a little too deep, but they used the passages and then developed questions alongside of that, but it has been the best feedback I’ve gotten from all of our students. They loved it. Both the seekers and stuff like that. And I was really impressed because I have had a hard time finding things that resonate with our international Christians, or international students, I’m sorry, not just Christians but our international students. I’m just going to put a shout out for that one. And we all got them, hopefully you got them in the mail. Because I got it free, that’s how I discovered it!
I’m just going to repeat what Jovin said so it gets on the tape. Jovin said that we don’t always have to be limited to IVP, and I would again highlight that – that there are a lot of resources through other organizations, ISI, Navigators, other ones that are putting out resources, and you can go on websites or things like that. Jovin also said that they have used alumni who had a heart for the word that weren’t finding study guides that really met them because they were internationals so they developed their own study guides for the future generations. So that was one, and then Greg has a comment.
One of the ideas, take the format of the I-GIG guide and then develop questions for new passages. Before that, maybe, there’s a little booklet – the Joy of Discovery, I think it’s called, and I can’t remember the name of the person who wrote it – but it’s basically how to do inductive Bible study. It’s thin, you could take them through that first because it teaches them inductive method, and then you could, from there, you could go to developing, teaching them how to develop study questions, discussion questions, for new passages and expand our I-GIG resources.
We have used the IVP Passport to the Bible which was written for international students and found that to be very, very good. Passport to the Bible, InterVarsity Press. And we also have a series that we call Exploring the Bible which is an unpublished Bible study thing that we hope to eventually get published, basically looking at the major stories of the Bible with a focus on God’s grace all the way through the Bible. And that has been very, very good. We actually tried the ones that IV Press sent us, I think those are the ones by Ravi Zacharias, and the students did not like them at all because the paragraphs were so philosophical. Our students spent more time trying to figure out what Ravi was trying to say than they did what the Bible was trying to say. But what we have found very, very helpful are the IVP studies looking at different books of the Bible where John Stott is the sort of the coordinator of the series. And we’ve done Ephesians and this semester we’re doing Romans.
And I guess just what on Terrell’s saying, this is again with partnership, getting feedback from your students. Cause like, our group loved that. I did preface it saying don’t focus on Ravi Zacharias’ paragraph, you know, we cut that out. I just said mark through it. So our students thrived on that and his fellowship didn’t enjoy it. So a lot of it is partnering with your students and getting feedback. Constantly getting feedback and allowing them to articulate what’s working, what’s not. And again our model of everyone, our model for our chapter, it’s what they’ve chosen to do but it’s not necessarily – it brings limitations, it limits us sometimes. So that might not always be the best model for your chapter. And if you have multiple Bible studies everyone’s studying the same thing.
What I wanted to say: I really encourage you to do the inductive method, and just open the Bible and teach your students how to look at the text and ask questions, because when they go home, they’re not going to have IVP. They’re not – so I think we have a gift in InterVarsity in doing the inductive method and manuscript studies, and so I really encourage you to learn how to do and teach them how to do it, because they’re not going to have the resources when they go and frankly, my wife leads a Mandarin Bible study – not Mandarin, but all Chinese women, and they did these studies for a couple of years, and this past year they went through the book of John, and to the person they’ve said, “This has been profound, this has been so life-giving, and we’ve really encountered Jesus so much more than, you know, looking at someone else’s questions and trying to answer someone else’s questions.” They can come up with their own, and that’s just my encouragement.
I agree with that, that’s actually what we usually do. But it’s good to hear again, considering other resources for various reasons. But we’re just kind of wondering if we can upload more things in the ministry exchange so that when we do evaluate what our students need, we have resources from all of you at our fingertips. I know it’s a lot to ask to that, but that’s just a thought that I had. It’s hard to gather this when you really need it but it’s nice if it’s kind of sitting there.
Okay, so these are questions that come to mind – again, not that you haven’t addressed all of these, but what are the components of training leaders? What are entry level requirements? What qualities and characteristics are you looking for at the beginning? These are not in any particular order. What qualities and characteristics are you seeking to develop? Are these the same for everyone? Is there a difference between training for service and training for leadership? Before someone is considered a leader, is there a certain level of maturity in the faith that’s expected? Is there a difference between making disciples and making leaders?
I’ll try to answer all of these. Some of us don’t have the luxury of having a large pool of internationals to work with, so I will attempt that. I guess in our experience, the small group of believer that we have, the key turning point was for them as they worked, we had them leading bible studies together. The security in numbers. They do inductive bible studies but at least one has the other to back each other up. So we paired Americans and internationals together. The other thing is as they progress and we met with them every other week working with the questions, and they would be so faithful they would e-mail each other about what questions, so they are all on the same page leading investigative bible studies. The other thing then we have proceeded later on, when they, we got into casting a little vision, we had a little conference, a retreat for international students in the Cleveland White area. So we had them organize it. And they worked it. And through that process the whole bonding thing came about, took play, and the vision. They were doing the scheduling, they were doing the ice breakers and the emceeing, the whole works. Things that we desire to see. So that’s something that we really have enjoyed. But coming back to how we grow and how we invest into these students. Some of them are not really leader quality people that we see in them, and have different gifts, but we are limited. This is small number. So Heidi and I really are just talking the basic things of whatever we do, but maybe we forget. It’s the simple things that we do as staff that are the relationship mentoring, discipling them, having them come visit with us, we visit with them, pretty much on an individual basis. So in some ways a small group will lend itself to some of these questions that maybe hopefully we might have answered some of Greg’s. I come from a Navigator background, so I have to push some of it. Another excellent resource, for some of you who are new at ISM is the ACMI network. Talk to other people, those of us that are on ACMI, just whatever study guides they use – it’s just an exchange of ideas. People who have used all these resources and what has worked and what has not worked.
We have just – I just got the five minute warning, so are there one or two more questions?
Maybe it’s just the culture of group that – or just the atmosphere of the students that we’re working with, but a lot of times our leaders are very hesitant to step up into leadership. We kind of have more of an organic type, more covert asking students into leadership. So I don’t know, maybe it’s perhaps just the group that I work with, but do you have any (other than our students would throw a rebellion if we had an application for leadership) but what are other ways that maybe asking into leadership or pursuing students who are really hesitant saying, “Oh I’m not a leader”?
And I should, for our bible study leaders there is not an application. The only application process we have is for CT members, and there’s a multi-step that we do in our fellowship. We do a nominating process and everyone takes part in that, both the non-Christians and the Christians, which means we get – I get nominated every year to be in the C team even though we explain it’s for students. But some of our non-Christians have been the ones who’ve really pointed out students that have a heart for outreach or who are really good at follow up or inviting people in. That have kind of opened our eyes to maybe see some of the quieter people, but then as a C team we meet and kind of- and then there’s an application process and it’s very short. It’s not what I knew as an undergrad American one that was pages and pages, at least for my region. We had a very in-depth – I felt like I was – so it’s very brief. So it’s not overwhelming. And we also give them the option that this is what you’ve been nominated for, but if there’s another position like we give them descriptions of the different positions, and we’ve actually sometimes had students that were nominated for something, or people were saying “Oh they’d make a great this,” but if they looked over the descriptions they felt, “This is where my heart is.” And in their application we really saw they’re right. They would serve better in this position than in this position.
In other ways, we also do – I’m learning that with American’s it’s okay for me to ask them directly and I forget because I have become very indirect from working with internationals. But we do a lot of surveys for ways that people can take partnership or ownership. So like, are you interested in being on the- helping lead worship, or helping with holiday dinners? And we do those throughout the year. And so it’s an indirect way and we make it – we also communicate, “By saying yes to this doesn’t mean that you’re committing to doing it every week.” Some of the positions. But we’re finding out where their interest is and inviting them into it. So there’s not an application to be a greeter or things like that. The Bible study leaders, it’s more we provide training for all the Christians and then we also are always looking, always asking other people who do you think, and then coming alongside of them. And sometimes it’s just being patient and pursuing them and encouraging them. Our C team leader three years ago was a Korean woman. I felt that God was really calling her into that position and she did not. And I said well would you just please pray about it? And it took her about a month and a half to decide, but she finally came back to me and said, “I’m really scared and I’m really nervous about doing this position, but I think you’re right. I think this is where God wants me to be.” And then walking her through that, you know? But it was, again, for me having patience with her and encouraging her, but also giving her grace, that if she said no to me, it was okay. And again, that was the Korean culture that I was giving her a way out. If that makes sense.
Being an international student, I came back from a background where I was very involved in my youth fellowship back at home, but then when I came here I felt like I lost my confidence in what I could do, so one of the things I found valuable was just making the Christian internationals know that they are valuable here, and anything they can do is valuable to God. So that’s just been the one key thing is affirming them in who they are, and that’s one big step to – for them to even step up to doing anything, whether it’s serving or just hanging around and just befriending people or just being invitational. I affirm them in that. The other thing to have done is I tell them it’s okay to say no, like she said, because I found out that sometimes they’ll say yes only because you ask them, as a leader or senior leader with them, and they don’t say yes because they want to. And so that’s the other thing. One of the things I’ve been doing this past year is still doing trainings with them irrespective of whether they serve or not. Because I feel like it’s something that they can learn and take away wherever they go and whatever they do.
Could you quickly tell us what the positions are for the C team?
We have – and it’s, again, we’re constantly changing what it actually looks like – we have a C team leader. And the leader’s position is partnering with me and staff, because of her gifting this year was in caring for the C team members. And that’s her gift. She has a pastoral prayer heart, but nurturing and caring, so she’s not so much – she’s like, “I’m not a visionary.” And things like that, that we work together as a visionary. So we have a C team leader, we have – and this changes from year to year depending what we have available – but we found that having – last year we did not have a C team leader, the woman that was going to serve in it got transferred at the last minute and we also had a conflict with Friday night coordinators not having any Friday night coordinators, and that created a problem because Andy and I stepped into those three positions, kind of sharing it with other members on the C team. And it was messy. So our positions are – what are our positions on our C team. Friday night coordinators, prayer coordinator, follow up, outreach, and at other times we’ve also had a small group leader coordinator. And at different things, and how we restructured it, is that again we say that this may be where your heart is or where God is using you, but again we work as a body, as a coordinating team. So casting vision together. Encouraging each other. She may be the outreach coordinator, but our prayer coordinator might have some really good ideas, you know, or our follow up coordinator. So we, again, we work together to grow each other.
And that, I guess a couple of things just to follow up, and if you want to talk to me if there’s time or e-mail me, or e-mail each other because I’m not the only resource, we all do this, we’re all trying to develop student leaders and by far there are multiple ways of doing this. But I think too that God has been teaching me as staff, is also learning to be broken in front of my student leaders. And to let them see my mistakes, and share my past mistakes with them. But let them see that it’s okay, that you don’t have to be this perfect image of a leader. And so that has been humbling, but I think that is the key to the gospel, that we are broken, messed up people that God in his grace, who doesn’t need us to accomplish what he is accomplishing, invites us in. And just the last example of this is this year I’m co-leading with a young Taiwanese believer who came in very hesitantly. And so we take turns but I meet with her on a week to go through her questions and help her. And so I just – I had to go back and start talking about all the mistakes I made as a small group leader, you know, and she was like, really? Because she looks at me as someone who, oh I could never be like you. I could never be a leader like you. And so I just – she’s seen me where we’ve had chaos break out in my small group and I just sat there first and she’s looking at me like, “Jenn, do something!” And we’ve got five tangents going and I’m like, “I don’t know what to do!” And it’s humbling, but being broken before her, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. The week she was to lead, I really felt like her first leading time we had met and prepared, but I had this sense that she was going to look to me the entire night. And so there was another mature sister in the group, and I went up to her and I said, “I can’t stay tonight, I’m not going to be able to stay for the entire bible study. But Amy is here and she’s your partner tonight, and if you have any problems, it’s okay.” But I stepped out that night. And she hit it out of the park. They loved her. She stepped up, she did a wonderful job. But I honestly believe because I was partnering with her – I didn’t abandon her, but I stepped out to let her step in. And sometimes, especially as staff as we partner with our students, we sometimes need to step out and allow them maybe even to fail. If she had failed that night it would’ve been okay. And I told her that. You know, I fail all the time. And encouraged her. But I think Jovin came back to a thing – we need to constantly encourage them, but also be broken before them. Allow them to see our mistakes. Allow them to know that we don’t have all the answers either, and that we’re growing in this. And I think that will allow them to model it when they go back to their home cultures or wherever God takes them or grows them into leaders, that they’re also broken leaders teaching brokenness and the result of the cross in our work. I’m going to end there because Ron is looking at me, so thank you all.